Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Another chapter in my ongoing musical time traveling fantasy series. This one is David Bowie (aka Ziggy Stardust) live in Santa Monica at the Civic Auditorium on October 20th, 1972;

An omnipresent cloud of smoke mingles with the stage lights above to form a surreal and colourful mist that hovers over everything. The vague shadows and indecipherable murmurings emanating from the seats below reflect an intense anticipation of something that is other worldly and does not have an immediate point of reference.

The lights suddenly dim for a moment and the outline of Ziggy Stardust emerges from the shadows. Full of swagger he pauses briefly to stare vacantly at the crowd. As the band rips into the opening chords of "Hang on to Yourself" he reanimates like a painted marionette that has suddenly had it's strings tugged dramatically upright.

Those who are not too stoned to process what is happening are awe struck by Bowie's theatrics, half believing that Ziggy Stardust is a real entity to behold. As he sings the confessional "Ziggy Stardust" it's as if he is telling his own tale in some bizarre third person narrative, daring you to participate in his sordid tale.

It would seem at any moment that his persona could self destruct, providing the alluring promise of something that is ultimately fleeting, glorious and meant to go out in a blinding flash. He does however manage to hold it together, providing enough of a human element to bring it momentarily back to earth, such as his playful Andy Warhol impression as he segues into the song of the same name.

In many ways when he sings "Life on Mars?" there is almost a wry smile behind the question mark and a vague promise that he might actually show us a glimpse another world in that same auditorium. Later, "Moonage Daydream" is shouted at points, his voice crackling slightly from strain though still able to resonate with a confident vibrancy.

When the sets ends with "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide" it slowly builds up to a climax, with Bowie declaring "Oh no love your not alone" to the enraptured crowd as the instruments come to a grinding halt. The lyrics evoke a promise of sorts to everyone present.

In many ways the whole evening is a sacred promise, like words or sounds uttered in ancient rituals by shaman who inspire both a sense of dread and ecstasy. When it all ends there is a millisecond of silence, followed by thunderous applause. Everyone present is thankful for being part of a journey that has no maps or sense of rational place. The world outside the auditorium is forever transformed.

(Note: the inspiration behind this is the recently re-released "bootleg" of this concert - the sound quality is sublime and it captures the entire concert magnificently - highly recommended. Also - I am always insatiably curious about other people's musical fantasies, so please do share!)

Related Post: Hovering Over The Abyss With Iggy Pop


Anaïs Nohant said...

I love this post. Got so lost in this fantasy journey. To see Bowie in the height of Ziggy Stardust must have been an life altering experience. The set list is incredible even a Velvet Underground track. Thanks for perking up my morning.

Liberality said...

thanks for that moonage daydream, oh yeah...

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It's quite amazing how you transformed me to that auditorium in Santa Monica. He really did completely embody the strange alien during his Ziggy Stardust phase, didn't he?

I wouldn't have minded being at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall for the pivotal Sex Pistols show, at any of the Jesus and Mary Chain concerts, even if they were only 15 minutes long, and at the launch party in Glasgow where Belle and Sebastian unleashed Tigermilk upon the world, and audience members drunkenly used the vinyls as frisbees.

Allison said...

I must admit, I only truly immersed myself in Bowie last year (I'm a slow learner). And as your post transformed us to the concert, his music defintely takes you somewhere else. I think I shall have to dig out some Bowie today.

Westcoast Walker said...

Anais - nice to have you grace my blog with your presence once again - I am glad that my little fantasy could help transport you to this moment in time!

Liberality - Thanks for your comment, it was quite Hunky Dory by my standards

Barb - the JAMC concerts would have been fun, though I would have stood towards the back to avoid the flinging beer bottles - I didn't know about the Belle & Sebastian vinyl flinging incident, sounds like fun! I would have tried to catch them all and then bring them home for my collection.

Allison - you certainly can't go wrong if you immerse yourself in pretty well anything Bowie did in the 70's - I would recommend getting some good headphones, lying back at night and listening to the album "Low" in it's entirety - it will change your life!

Dean Wormer said...

Powerful post and just damned fine writing, Matt.

I would've loved to see Ziggy. Soooo jealous. :-)

Westcoast Walker said...

Hi Dean - seeing as I admire your fine writing I welcome your compliment with open arms - thanks for dropping by again!